Tiktok: What Is It, Who Uses It, and How Can It Work for Your Brand?

How to maximise the world’s fastest growing social media app.

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You’ve spotted the dancing, heard about the trends, and seen the advertisements. But now you’re pondering over the ultimate question:

What is TikTok and why are people so obsessed with it?

With over a billion users, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world. But why is TikTok powerful and how can it work for your brand? We’ve put together your go-to guide to the world’s fastest growing social app.

So. TikTok. What is it?

TikTok, previously known as Musical.ly, is seen as the successor to the Vine app from 2013-2017. TikTok is a social media platform that is home to creative video content. With short-form video clips ranging from 6 seconds to 1 minute, TikTok culture first revolved around quick and easy videos that you can take and edit on your phone. Over the last few years, the platform has extended its maximum video length all the way to 10 minutes, resulting in even more engagement and views for content creators. Users can watch, create and engage in many ways - from your classic “like” button, to even “duetting” along with other users side by side on the screen. TikTok is a global app with high engagement and screen time and is therefore ripe with possibilities.

#ForYou / Discover / Content Creation / Profile Page

Who uses TikTok?

As of the first quarter of 2020, TikTok had already been downloaded 315 million times. Fast forward a few months, and this figure had multiplied over 6 times to a staggering 2 billion downloads. But who is the primary user of this app?

It should come as little surprise that the main demographic of TikTok users are 16 to 24-year-olds, with these Gen-Zers making up 41% of the total user base. But this isn’t to say that other age groups aren’t starting to download or use the channel. 63% of TikTok users are between 10 and 29 years old, making it a highly profitable platform for brands connecting with younger generations.

It has been mentioned that TikTok is highly relevant to marketers due to the rich data that can be gathered on Gen-Z. It has been notoriously difficult to market to this demographic and businesses are hoping to cash in on this age group.

Sensor Tower, a platform which tracks and analyses the data behind applications noted that TikTok is the most downloaded social media app currently.

So why should you care about this new app that youngsters are going crazy for?

Well according to Sensor Tower, users average 52 minutes on TikTok a day.

52 minutes.

That’s nearly a whole hour every time they log onto TikTok.

The impact of this hour-long usage is huge. Unlike those who quickly log onto Facebook or scroll down their Instagram feeds, TikTok is seeing its users engage with the content much more.

The monthly engagement rate for content on TikTok sits around 70%.

If you apply this to your brand and imagine each piece of content being liked, shared and commented on by more than 70% of your following, this blows its Instagram counterpart out of the water. This figure is intensified by users opening their app on average around 8-12 times a day, which could suggest high loyalty and retention rate.

The most staggering fact of all?

Only 4% of social media marketers in the US use TikTok.

That’s a lot of missed potential if you ask us, and a large market for brands.

Talking about engagement? This is why TikTok is insane at it.

Jennifer Lopez released a video on TikTok and Twitter. At the time of publication, Lopez had 8 million followers on TikTok and 45.2 million on Twitter. Naturally you’d assume that Twitter, with its algorithm, would gain more engagement.

Not quite.

On Twitter the views were around 1.8 million with 87,000 likes - only 4.84% of her following. The same video on TikTok, however, received 134 million views and 10.8 million likes with over 50 thousand comments and 314,400 shares.

And if you’re thinking that you have to be famous to use TikTok, you’d be wrong. From lawyers to doctors, make-up gurus to CEOs, anyone and everyone uses TikTok. And you’d be surprised at how much of a cult following can happen, and how quickly too.

These statistics and figures are emphasised through TikTok’s ease of usability. The app is easy to use, low commitment and highly engaging through digestible, fun content.

How can my brand use TikTok?

All successful social media marketing requires a strategy, and TikTok is no different. Regarding how your brand can use TikTok depends on what you’re looking for when marketing. Do you want to gain engagement, grow your following, promote products or purely use TikTok for profit? All of these aspects work, but first you need a strategy.

Start by creating engaging organic content that tells your story. Imagine you’re setting up your business again, but this time through TikTok. You’re wanting to sell your products, but what makes them different to your competitor?

You need to think about how you can attract your audience to purchase your products. There are many ways this can be done. You could create content showing how your products are made, how you come up with new ideas or how you package your products. An emphasis on sustainability and health benefits will work.

Remember that TikTok is personal, and viewers love to see the brains behind the brand.

We want that personal connection. As social media data analyst Adam Ward mentioned: ‘Gen-Z don’t want to stand and listen to you waffle on about your great service. What they really want is for a company to value their needs more than the product’. Showing this personal connection you have between yourself and your customers through the ‘holy grail’ of organic content could really help you and your brand to grow.

Imagine you’re setting up a skincare business again but through TikTok. How can you show the value of your products to this large highly engaging audience? Think creatively while also demonstrating your brand values and what defines your brand compared to your competitors. TikTok isn’t a playground for competing but for you to show the world who you are and claim some of those valuable customers.

If you’re still wondering what type of content you can make, then check out what others have done. This creative viral video here shows Bella Porch becoming famous from lip syncing and bobbing her head. The best part? (If lip-syncing isn’t enough). It has 36.3 million likes. 1.2 million comments. 1.1 million shares. And 440.6 million views. We don’t know what else defines the success of organic content more than this.

Whilst it often takes one great idea to drive this level of success, you can gauge the creative freedom and the potential that your content can have. And ultimately how successful and engaging this content can be.

Here are some additional examples of brands within the UK and how they utilise the app. You can see they operate completely differently to their normal marketing methods and you will only find this happening on TikTok.

In terms of usability, TikTok has similarities with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can advertise, use hashtags, videos and live streams. You can put your website link into your bio, as well as link up your Instagram and YouTube. But how can you create value for your brand?

Well, TikTok rewards creators who post quality content by verifying them. Have you seen the verification checkmark for Instagram and Twitter? The same goes for TikTok. You can live stream content and monetise this through a microtransaction coins system where viewers send you virtual coin currency. Livestream features will be unlocked once you have amassed 1000 followers. TikTok users are heavily against corporate style videos and blatant hard-selling of your products. As mentioned, users prefer authentic content which shows you, what you’re about and your brand. From this, users research you and then the sales come into play.

A good way to avoid this from happening is by spending time watching content similar to what you’d want to produce or brands with similar goals in mind. You can work with influencers to spread your content further and pay to advertise on TikTok. TikTok is known for having less invasive advertising than Facebook and Instagram and they only appear every so often and only if the content is something you’re interested in.  

Influencers are extremely popular and an effective way to market on TikTok. Their community is already built up and they are trusted so picking the right influencers for your brand is key.

What options does TikTok have for paid marketing?

TikTok offers the four following ad types:


Video first format that can last up to 60 seconds distraction-free viewing grabbing 100% of the user’s attention.

Brand takeover:

Multiple format options, with strong branding and attention-grabbing experiences. These can be images, videos or GIFs. You can directly link this to your brands store and a brand takeover is limited to one per category each day (beauty, clothing, food etc.) so there’s no fighting for advertising space.

Here the food brand Chipotle is sponsoring the video by the influencer David Dobrik. You can join the challenge and post your own video, click the hashtag or follow the link for more information.

Metrics to analyse: reach, engagement (impressions) and conversions.

In-feed Ads:

Appears in the #ForYou page, users can engage with the videos by liking, sharing and using the same music to promote your brand. Up to 15 seconds long. These ads are skippable and can link to your website or app download.

Here Tinder displays an in-feed advert promoting their app for downloading with the emphasis of ‘look for something, or don't’. And Redbull is shown promoting their energy drinks.

Metrics to analyse: average engagement, views, click-through-rate amongst others.

Branded Hashtag Challenge:

Associate your brand with a hashtag. Users who engage with the hashtag will do so on behalf of your brand using their own creativity for promotion.

A great example of this is US show host Jimmy Fallon who when the music prompts gets down and rolls to the #tumbleweedchallenge

Metrics that can be analyse here: amount of user generated content, engagement of videos, hashtag page views etc

Branded Effects:

Think Snapchat filter style but with your brand assets. Highly engaging and trendy.

TikTok is highly trendy and relevant and will be for a long time. Brands can approach marketing in a unique way by creating organic engaging content with less noise from other advertisers and companies.

And metrics for branded effects: use of assets, engagement, click-through-rate, views, impressions etc

What kind of ad is right for my brand?

TikTok Advertising allows you to tailor your ads for specific needs.

You can choose advertising goals such as:

Reach - targeting as much users as possible

Traffic - driving users to your site

App installs - direct users to download your application

Video views and conversion - more engagement for your organic content.

There are also additional tools which advertisers have access too such as demographics for targeting and a/b testing to measure the success of one advertising goal over the other and many more features for you to choose from when advertising through TikTok.

Why TikTok over other platforms?

TikTok shouldn’t be used to replace other platforms, but instead used alongside to build your following. You should see TikTok as a tool which enables you to create organic content and access a highly viral ecosystem which may potentially gain you large exposure and engagement. When paired with an appropriate marketing strategy, this will quickly translate into sales.

Will it work for MY brand?

If your target demographic is Gen-Z (born in 1995-2012), you’re a fun creative brand, and you have the time and energy to invest into making videos to drive engagement and thus sales, TikTok will work for you.

If you’re interested in creating organic content to tell a story in a fun and engaging way, TikTok will also work for you.

And finally if you just want to jump on this trend bandwagon? You know what to do.

Side note: We don’t work for TikTok. We promise. We’re just REALLY keen on the app and its potential.

What’s the future for TikTok?

TikTok will be around for a long time. How do we know this? TikTok in some countries is going through an acquisition phase by Walmart (owners of Asda UK) and Oracle (a cloud storage technologies organisation). This is due to the rich data TikTok holds and the value for research and businesses. TikTok downloads outperform all of its competitors, even including Facebook.

Gen-Z has an insatiable desire for entertaining content which is highly inspirational and relevant. If you design content with these aspects in mind they’ll love your brand. You’ll gain visibility and traction like nothing you’ve ever experienced so far. As we climb into the holiday seasons with even more trends and topical content, TikTok will keep on growing.

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